#10 Not A 60% Guy
Becky asked Dr. L, the Integrative Medicine cancer specialist, directly, â€œWhat are the odds that Tom will get the side effects from his treatment given his age and good health?â€
Dr. LÂ didnâ€™t hesitate. â€œ100%â€ He then paused for a few moments before adding, â€œWe just donâ€™t know which ones will show up and when they will happen.â€
I mentally reviewed the list Iâ€™d been studying the last few weeks as he continued. Fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, hand and foot syndrome, skin rash, numbness or tingling in hands and feet. I tried to recall the rest of the assorted side effects stored in my mind, but they seemed to elude me.Â In that moment, the list and his proclamation of 100% weighed heavy. No one else had been that direct with us.
During the first three days of treatment my most evident side effect was fatigue. I had no reserves in the tank to do much more than what I needed to do.Â Sleep, managing my energy expenditures and rest seemed to be the best solution to the empty tank.
But Dr. L had a different prescription.
â€œWalk. You should have a daily practice of walking for at least 30 minutes. And if you can, do it a second time.â€
He supported his directive by explaining that the very best response to fatigue was to do the thing that seemed completely counterintuitiveâ€”expend energy. He suggested that despite not knowing why it worked, thereâ€™s plenty of evidence to show that walking reduces fatigue, and as an added bonus, itâ€™s shown to support more effective treatment.
I took that one in easily. It went on my daily to-do list. I would certainly walk. In fact, I would walk twice a day if at all possible. And I would do more. Iâ€™d do my stretches and also the new kettle bell exercises Iâ€™d been working on. Iâ€™d fight the fatigue. I thanked him for making it so clear.
And then Dr. L made an even more sobering disclosure. â€œExpect to only be able to do 60% of what you think you can accomplish each day.â€
His statement hit me hard in the gut. Iâ€™ve had a lifetime of boundless capacity. Iâ€™ve always been able to do more than expected. Thereâ€™s invariably more fuel in my tank. In fact, itâ€™s been one of the underlying beliefs Iâ€™ve held about myself for most of my life.
In school I was never the smartest, most athletic or most talented. But, I was the one who worked the hardest and did more. I hustled and was rewarded as captain of my athletic teams, leader of the band and student council. Itâ€™s been my M.O. since then.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, itâ€™s been a trait Iâ€™ve considered my secret sauce. Iâ€™ve put in the long hours for years. Iâ€™ve crammed years into months and saw it as a badge of honor.Â Iâ€™m the extra miles guy. I read more. I research more. I prepare more.
And, Iâ€™ve proven it again recently. In the last few months, Iâ€™ve felt a lot of pride for doing extreme amounts of research on my specific cancer diagnosis, treatment and everything else I could learn related to it.Â I felt good about myself for doing so much.
But with the statement about my capacity from Dr. L, a new side effect emerged for meâ€”a challenge to my identity and sense of myself.
I am not a 60% guy.Â In Dr. Lâ€™s office I inwardly fight the notion. â€œThat wonâ€™t be me. I will give this 150%.â€
But, over much of this last weekend, as I lay on the couch immobilized by the fatigue, it became evident that my belief about myself might not withstand this new reality.Â The value Iâ€™ve placed on my capacity to do â€œmoreâ€ smacks into a wall of tiredness that I cannot climb over.Â I feel like Iâ€™m lucky hitting 50% right now and Iâ€™m struggling with what it means about me.
In my couch-time quietness some questions emerge that challenge my fragile ego. Is my value dependent on my ability to do more? More than what? More than who? If I can only live at 60% capacity, am I okay with that?Â What if I had zero capacity right now? What then?
And underneath these swirling questions, I am struck by the power of the beliefs I have carried about myself for so long. This pressure I have felt to â€œbe moreâ€ and â€œgive moreâ€ and â€œdo moreâ€ has been a constant companion.Â Itâ€™s not lost on me that this 150% approach could have been a contributor to my current health diagnosis. I recognize how these beliefs and actions have served me till now, and that it may be time to update them.
So, Iâ€™m going to try the 60% approach. Iâ€™m going to walk 18 minutes a day. Iâ€™m going to arrive at the office at 8 and leave at 4:30. Iâ€™m not going to start or take on any new projects right now.
Iâ€™m going toâ€¦Â Dang, there I go again.